Proper safety guards would have stopped a 1,500-pound steel roller before it crushed and killed a 59-year-old maintenance worker, but his employer did not use them, an OSHA inspection has found.

D.R. Diedrich & Co. Ltd., a Milwaukee leather manufacturer, failed to use devices that would have stopped the roller on a tanning machine from moving during service and maintenance. The worker, who had been with the company for 13 years, was inspecting the machine's bearing when the tragedy occurred in Feb. 1, 2015. He suffered fatal head and neck injuries as a result.

OSHA cited D.R. Diedrich & Co. on July 30 for one willful and 18 serious safety violations. The agency cited a willful violation because D.R. Diedrich failed to prevent unintentional operation of machines during service and maintenance.

"Too often, we cite companies that ignore machine hazards in the hope that a tragic death like this one can be avoided," said Christine Zortman, OSHA's area director in Milwaukee. "Machine hazards are among the most frequently cited by OSHA. Manufacturer-installed guards and industry-standard locking devices protect workers from operating machinery. Yet, each year thousands of workers are injured or killed because employers ignore machine hazards and do not train workers on safety procedures."

Inspectors noted 19 serious safety violations at the Milwaukee facility, including:

  • Lack of machine guards.
  • Not training workers on machine safety procedures or evaluating procedures annually.
  • Absence of electrical safety work practices, including exposing workers to energized parts, and failing to provide barriers and protective clothing to prevent workers from contacting live electrical parts and improper wiring.
  • Failing to install standard railings to guard against falls of up to 5 feet from platforms and floor openings.
  • Modifying forklifts without manufacturer permission.
  • Annual audiograms for workers exposed to an average of 85 decibels annually were delinquent.
  • Not evaluating and providing training for confined space hazards, such as chrome tanks.
  • Failing to comply with respiratory protection requirements.

OSHA has proposed penalties of $169,495 to the company. D.R. Diedrich is a manufacturer of tanned leather for use in the automotive, furniture and shoe industries. The company has about 130 employees.